Finnish diplomat elected first woman head of UN Economic and Social Council

22 January 2004 –

Finland's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Marjatta Rasi, has been elected president of the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), becoming the first woman ever to head the 54-member development coordinating body.

She succeeds Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, the Permanent Representative of Guatemala.

Ms. Rasi has been Finland's Ambassador to the UN since 1998. She was deputy permanent representative from 1987 to 1991, during which time she chaired the Security Council's Iraq sanctions committee.

Outlining the Council's work for 2004 on Wednesday, Ms. Rasi said strengthening and enhancing UN follow-up to conferences in the economic and social sectors was crucial.

ECOSOC coordinates the development work of the 14 UN specialized agencies, 10 functional commissions and 5 regional commissions. It receives reports from 11 UN funds and programmes and issues policy recommendations to the UN system and to member States.

From time to time, ECOSOC has been given additional related tasks, including supervising and promoting the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) designed to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

Elected as vice-presidents of the Council for 2004 were Daw Penjo of Bhutan, Jagdish Koonjul of Mauritius, Yashar Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Stafford O'Neil of Jamaica.

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